Despite a night-long concert at Natya Tarangini, Rajan and Sajan Mishra look far from fatigued. In fact, they have been up early for their morning riyaaz. “Music keeps us rejuvenated,” says Rajan Mishra, the elder of the legendary duo that hails from the famous Benaras Gharana. “The whole maahol (atmosphere) at Raja Radha Reddy’s institute was so serene, just the kind any artiste would like to perform in,” he adds, talking about the annual concert organised by the Kuchipudi dancer family to celebrate Shivaratri.
“We’ve had a long association with the Reddys,” smile the Mishra bandhu (brothers) famous across the world for their khayal gayaki as they sit in the tastefully decorated living room home of their Ramesh Nagar house in Delhi. What makes the bond with them even more special is the fact that their respective cultural traditions are being carried forth by their children.
The Mishras’s gen-next — Ritesh and Rajnish, who are the elder brother’s sons, and Swaaransh, son of the younger sibling — are immersed in music. Rajan Mishra says, “Seeing them, both my brother and I feel blessed that yeh bachche sambhal lenge hamari legacy ko.”
In it together
They started singing together more than 53 years ago. “Right from the time we were growing up in Benaras, we had realised how blessed we were to be part of a 350-year-old family tradition of gayaki,” adds Sajan Mishra remembering the maahol (atmosphere) of their home with the legendary singer Hanuman Prasad Mishra, their father, and the sarangi virtuoso Gopal Prasad Mishra, their uncle, as the heads of the family.
The musical standards set for them were high from the beginning. “Our elders were clear that while we were carrying forth a haloed tradition, we were to create our niche.”
The family elders ensured that the brothers must always sing together. “This, they felt, would always keep our bonds strong. Saath gayenge to saath rahenge,” says the elder-by-five-years sibling.
Despite Delhi being their base ever since they shifted to the capital city in the early 1980s, the pull of their Benaras home continues to be as strong. “It may not have the same atmosphere, but there is still sukoon (peace) in its gallis and mohallas,” smiles Rajan Mishra. “Whenever we visit our home there, which is quite often, we seem to hear the strains of my father’s sarangi coming from the house.”
Their initiation into the Benaras gayaki started early. Rajan Mishra was barely four when he had the formal ganda-bandhan ceremony with his grandfather’s brother Pandit Bade Ramdas. A few years later, he was joined by his little brother Sajan. “There was no leniency because we were guruji’s sons. So, we had to follow the strict regimen of riyaaz.” Rajan Mishra laughs remembering the time when he, unable to get a note right, got such a tight slap on the leg from his father that the “chaap (imprint) of his fingers remained for days together. So much so, that my daadi screamed at him: “Bachche ko maar daloge kya (Do you want to kill the child)?”
It's all love
But, while a strict maahol prevailed, “there was prem (love) too. “Our elders would say, ‘Go to any university in the world but prem ka paath yaheen milega (this is the place you will find love),” he adds.
And now, while the Mishras remain busy with concerts across the globe, they also find time for Viraam, the gurukul that they have set up in Dehradun where music is taught in the guru-shishya parampara.
Ask them about their definition of happiness and they smile, “When the entire family — all five of us sing together. And, when we see our children on stage carrying forth our Benaras gayaki. We feel proud and doubly so when our listeners tell us that our music is in good hands.”